American tennis star John Isner is one of the most curious players in the modern game. Standing tall at an incredible 6’10”, his physicality is both intimidating and terrorizing to opponents facing him. He commands a frightful serve, often slicing through the court at 130mph, and bouncing high and far away from his competitors, limiting break opportunities. However, in the return game Isner has been far less impressive, often struggling to make returns and looking awkward and gangly during volleys. But based on his performances at the 2015 Miami Open, it appears as if the 29-year-old may have turned the corner, providing hope that he may soon become the star that America has longed for since the retirement of Andy Roddick.
Isner’s perplexing game was a major story in 2010 when a first round matchup against Nicolas Mahut endured for a record-breaking 11 hours at the Wimbledon Championships! Both players simply couldn’t stop each other’s serves, causing the game to ramble on to infinitum. Though Isner did eventually claim the win, his inability to play well beyond serving has limited him greatly throughout his career. He has reached just one Grand Slam quarterfinal (at the 2011 US Open), and is usually thwarted by the 3rd round in Majors.
But the Isner we’ve watched in Miami has been an entirely different player. Having already beaten 5th ranked Milos Raonic, Isner faced off against young Japanese star, Kei Nishikori (ranked 4th), and was incredible. He was handling serve returns with ease, and was placing smart shots all over the court. He completely threw Nishikori off his game and powered his way to a straight-sets victory. That win got him to the semifinals, where he ultimately lost to Novak Djokovic, the top ranked player in the world. However, in defeating two of the game’s rising stars, Isner may be able to take that next step.
What that match displayed was again the astounding potential which John Isner possesses. His serve is among the game’s best, and if he can maintain a firm control over his volleys and returns, he could win a major. He’ll need to continue working on placing shots, as many missed opportunities doomed him versus Djokovic. Nevertheless, it is exciting that an American man is flashing superstar potential early this season. Let’s hope Isner can keep it up!
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